A space to CREATE

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the studio the past few weeks on creative work, mostly samples for upcoming class proposals for 2012. Deadlines are something I thrive on. They give me that extra little push I need to prioritize my time.

copyright Jen Cushman

In a few short weeks, I will be heading to Costa Mesa, Calif. to teach at the amazing CREATE art retreat put on by Cloth, Paper, Scissors magazine. How I adore this mixed media publication. I’ve been a reader since Issue 1, well maybe it was issue 2, but it’s been a long time now.

 copyright Jen Cushman

Imagine how thrilling it is that 6 years later, I’ve been given the chance to teach my mixed media jewelry projects at the magazine’s second annual art retreat.

On Saturday, May 21st, I will be teaching a 6-hour class called Art to Wear. I’m teaching how to make resin paper. We’re then turning our papers into am amazing little art journal necklace. In addition to using ICE Resin, I’m using the adorable little natural brass blanks from Vintaj, along with their cute alterable butterfly charm.

Featured in Spring 2010 Belle Armoire Jewelry

Then on Sunday I’m teaching Tinned Treasures, which is how to turn a found object medicine tin into a funky and fun necklace. This project was featured in the Spring 2010 issue of Belle Armoire Jewelry magazine.

There are still spaces left in my classes. If you live near the Los Angeles area or close enough to get a decent last-minute airplane ticket, I would love, love, love to have you join me. I just checked on Southwest airlines and found some $59 web specials for the May 21st weekend. With prices like that, how can you not join me and the other fantastic teachers for a long weekend of education and art making.

Seeing with new eyes

As I’ve been slowly tidying my studio, I keep running across quotes scribbled on sticky notes. The notes were once stuck to the doors of my open computer armoire, but, in a fit of cleanliness, I pulled them off and placed them in a vintage wire basket to the left of my monitor.

I uncovered this one today and thought it was telling of the place my heart and head was in when I scribbled out the note.

“Always listen to your doubts, Jen, not just because they might teach your fear, but because, sometimes, they might teach you of your wisdom.”

I wrote this one in November when things were a little off kilter professionally. Changes were taking place with my job and I wasn’t sure how things were going to work out. I wasn’t fearful of the changes because I knew I had options for work. I could go back to writing freelance, or start my own company doing social media or look for an editor-type job. The thing was that I really, really loved what I was doing and the person whom I was working beside.

I’m grateful to still be doing exactly what I love and working not only with Susan, but with her amazing sister, Cheri Lenart, who’s also an incredible glass artist, and Karen Michel, whose work I’ve admired for a long time and kind spirit I’ve known for a few years now.

I keep remarking how fresh and new this Spring feels. Work is going so well, my book is getting good reviews, I have time for my own artistic endeavors, and I’m jazzed to be thinking about new column ideas.

It’s interesting how when one is faced with challenges, it can be difficult to see the good in the situation, particularly when things appear to go from bad to worse. The only thing to do is to hold on to hope and to keep trying to see the lesson in the truth of the moment. Eventually, the situation changes yet again, more information is revealed and life moves forward.

Then, one day in the not too distant future, it gets easier to acknowledge your blessings and realize that you are – and have always been – moving in the right direction.

He called me a “magpie”


I invited our neighbor over for dinner this past Saturday because his wife of 35-years is out-of-town and his diet for 3 weeks has consisted of beer, popcorn and cookies. I should have invited him over earlier for a home-cooked meal, but with my husband traveling, I wasn’t doing a lot of cooking myself. Kids are fine with pizza and chicken nuggets. Come to think of it, my neighbor might have been too.

As we were sitting down at the table eating and chatting, Dan asked me what took me so long to be neighborly when he and Barb moved in last year. Honestly, I wasn’t trying to be unfriendly. I was just busy juggling the same thing so many women my age are balancing: work and motherhood.

I may have been slow to warm up, but then my neighbors did a huge favor for me in January, and I’m eternally grateful to them. Since then, I’ve been trying to show my appreciation in small ways whenever I can, like making sure Dan eats at least one serving of vegetables while Barb is out-of-town.

I’ve also come to learn that Dan is a big jokester. He loves to tease me and try to get my goat up whenever he can. My father has the same personality, so it’s pretty hard to catch me off guard. I was trained to think fast on my feet or whither under my dad’s caustic wit.

At one point in the dinner conversation, Dan called me a “magpie.” I laughed and asked him exactly how I reminded him of a funny little black-and-white bird. He said that I can seem aloof at first, but once I get to talking, I can chatter noisely and endlessly. I could tell he felt a little guilty by the surprised look on my face and quickly added: “They’re highly intelligent birds you know!”

I’ve been thinking about the comparison the past few days and realize it’s quite a compliment. I googled magpies and found out they’re notorious kleptomaniacs, collecting anything brightly colored that catches their eye. A magpie snatches up glittering treasures – gum wrappers, tinsel, metal bits, barbed wire, etc. – to incorporate into its nest. Also, magpies are known for swooping down and stealing shiny pieces of jewelry.

As you know from my last post that it’s Spring cleaning time in my studio. Thinking about the magpie analogy, I took a quick picture of my workbench yesterday as I was cleaning up from my recent jewelry-making projects. It’s quite the little glittery nest of stuff, isn’t it?

Looking for freedom

Spring has begun its warm ascent. The weather is gorgeous, and it makes me want to play outside, rather than stay inside and do the Spring cleaning my studio so desperately needs after long winter months of constant creating for the book, class proposals and deadlines.

I look at my mess and want to run. Like the sweet little hummingbird I caught on camera last week, I want to spread my wings and fly somewhere where my responsibilities would never in a million years catch up with me. Mainly, the home responsibilities of needing to sort and sift and move out the physical things I no longer require in my life that are taking up space in my home.

The problem is a cluttered studio represents my brain right now. My mind is full of half-done projects that need to be finished before I can turn my sights on the new things I want to tackle — now, right now, as in today.

I tend to create in chaos. I have to see my things to be able to pull from them. I had made a promise to myself after I spent 4 days last summer completely re-doing my studio that I would never again allow the floor to get so cluttered that I had to step over books and magazines to work. A promise I would always have a neat square on my bench to make new jewelry creations. Alas, my good intentions evaporated after a full winter of extreme busyness.

Now it the time to begin again. To be renewed, like the flowering fig tree that is blooming cherry pink as I look out my kitchen window. I must take this instinct to run for freedom and turn it to that which needs to be done. It’s called being a grown up. It’s what I teach my children — being grateful for the bounty of our lives and for taking personal responsibility for our things that serve us so well.

It’s time for spring cleaning. The feeling of happiness will return as soon as I do the hard work of sorting and donating and tossing.